A River Runs Through It: 3 Challenges to Our Understanding of Change

There is much to be learned from rivers. If ever there was a group of systems that showcased the inevitable reality of change, it is the river basins of the world. One of the most famous river quotes is Heraclitus’s: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” As water carves its way across the landscape with greater or lesser force, change follows at all scales.


A River Runs Through It: 3 Challenges to Our Understanding of Change…

The message, relevant to absolutely everyone, that rivers proclaim day and night to those who are listening is this: There is no such thing as a static system. Every single system that involves any kind of life or movement is always, always on a trajectory. Change is constantly afoot. To deny this is folly. The only question that needs to be asked is where the trajectory that a system is on is leading to…

It is interesting to consider that one could legitimately frame the ultimate role of rivers as being ‘to drain excess water from the land and deliver it to the sea’. But of course, there is so much more to them than that… 

Many of the world’s largest and oldest cities are built on the banks of rivers – the arteries which provided these settlements with water for drinking and cultivation and offered a means of transport for necessary goods and services into and out of the city.

As people began to make use of river services, they realized that there was a need to manage the changeability of rivers to suit human objectives (which were different to the simple purpose of draining the land surface of excess water). Rivers needed to be made more regular and reliable. Change needed to be absorbed and avoided in favour of predictability which brought a sense of safety and security. 

Flood levees were built to protect too-close settlements from the destructive, raging torrents of flood season, transfer schemes were engineered to distribute water where it was needed but not naturally present, and dams were built to ensure a steady supply of water year-round – especially in arid areas. It was genius. As many risks as possible were mitigated, and the natural fluctuations of flow boom and bust…of change… were all but eliminated in many river catchments across the world. All seemed well, but it was not.

This is not a geography blog but suffice to say that as time went by and understanding grew, scientists realized that there was trouble in paradise. Flood waters that were contained by levees no longer delivered fertile fine sediments to floodplains, which made cultivation far more difficult. Water that was released from dams in predictable, regular quantities left its sediment behind the dam walls and gouged its way downstream in a sediment-hungry and erosive way. Instream microhabitats downstream of dams became more homogenous, and biodiversity began to decline as intricate, seasonal habitat niches were eliminated. 

It seemed that all the change that everyone had been working so hard to eliminate should perhaps have been embraced, that a more nuanced understanding of disruption and change needed to be pursued, and that river change managers needed to open themselves once again to a necessary degree of risk and unpredictability if life in all its nuanced diversity was to be supported.

So it was that the understanding of river change and variability began to shift. And the conclusions that were reached were not vastly different to some of those that have begun to emerge in the change-rocked business biomes of 2020/21.

Here are three of them for you to consider:


1. Rivers don’t only drain excess water from the land surface, and your business doesn’t only produce goods or provide services for your customers. Your handling of change affects more than you may realize.

It can be motivating to reframe your business as a resource and become more nuanced in your view of it. Perhaps you produce a particular range of products or provide a range of services. But as the river of your business flows to the sea, what else is it accomplishing, or what else could it accomplish on the way? 

In short, what is cultivated on the floodplains of your river? Could it be that the occasional overflow (i.e., change), if not avoided or mitigated, could increase the fertility of your adjacent land, and bring forth more life? Have you, either purposefully or accidentally, built a dam wall somewhere which mitigates (most) catastrophe but also inhibits the variability essential for a healthy, sustainable system? It sounds a bit philosophical, maybe, but you and your fellow leaders could have some stimulating times around these questions as you wrestle through the relationship of your business with change.


2. Change Can Bring Many Benefits

Flooding leads to fertile floodplains, and shifting channels lead to the creation of brand new habitats. Change can lead to many great things in river systems, and the same is true in business. Instead of just managing it with gritted teeth, Karen McCullough encourages leaders to consider five benefits that change can bring to a business. These are:

  • Change encourages innovation and creativity,
  • Change promotes skills growth,
  • Change leads to the personal development of people, which in turn leads to the development of the business as a whole,
  • Change can lead to new business opportunities (new crops on the floodplain), and
  • Change, if well-led, can increase staff morale as employees see their business as being resilient.

More effort needs to be spent on understanding the benefits of change than on the building of immovable structures as bulwarks against it.


3. Diversity is a Measure of System Health

A dammed river channel leads to a too-homogenous channel downstream of the dam wall. This, in turn, leads to limited habitat types and limited biodiversity which raises a red flag regarding overall river system health. Aside from just being “the right thing to do”, changing your business system to include diverse people, approaches, strategies, and technologies stands to benefit the system as a whole in amazing ways. TalentLyft identifies 10 compelling benefits of diversity in business which are shown in the diagram below:

As change leaders, let us embrace the benefits of change, see the nuanced novelty that this change can bring, and diversify in a proactive bid to welcome change into our systems. Let us flow with change rather than inhibiting it, and be reassured that change is a sign of life.


Join our Community

Join us on Linkedin for daily updates – be part of our community and feel free to like, share and comment. Also, leave us your reviews. It helps us get these valuable lessons noticed and spread to a broader audience. 

Access all our podcasts here.
Catch the Change Cultivators podcast with co-hosts Rozzyn Boy and Patrick Fitzmaurice on any of your favorite podcast platforms – including Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Share this post

Comments (73)

  • Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out
    pretty fast. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not
    sure where to start. Do you have any ideas or suggestions?
    Appreciate it

  • I do not know if it’s just me or if perhaps everybody else encountering problems with your blog.
    It seems like some of the text within your content are running off the screen.
    Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening to
    them as well? This may be a problem with my browser because I’ve had this happen before.
    Many thanks

  • What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious know-how about
    unexpected emotions.

  • I constantly spent my half an hour to read this webpage’s articles or
    reviews everyday along with a mug of coffee.

  • obviously like your web site but you have to check the spelling on several
    of your posts. Many of them are rife with spelling problems and I to find it very
    troublesome to inform the reality however I will definitely come again again.

  • Hey there would you mind letting me know which web host you’re utilizing?
    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different browsers and I must say this blog loads a
    lot faster then most. Can you recommend a good internet
    hosting provider at a reasonable price? Thank you, I appreciate it!

  • An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who was conducting
    a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner simply because I discovered it for him…
    lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU
    for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to
    talk about this matter here on your site.

  • Today, I went to the beach front with my kids. I found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She placed the shell to her ear
    and screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it
    pinched her ear. She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is completely off topic but I had
    to tell someone!

  • It’s awesome to pay a visit this web site and reading the views of all friends on the topic of this
    paragraph, while I am also eager of getting know-how.

  • Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! However, how could we communicate?

  • I was more than happy to find this great site. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this particularly wonderful
    read!! I definitely savored every little bit of it and i also
    have you saved as a favorite to look at new information in your web site.

  • I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your
    blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead
    and bookmark your site to come back later. All the best

  • It’s actually very complex in this active life to listen news on TV, so I only use the
    web for that reason, and obtain the latest information.

  • Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew of any widgets I could add to
    my blog that automatically tweet my newest twitter updates.
    I’ve been looking for a plug-in like this for quite some time and
    was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something
    like this. Please let me know if you run into anything.
    I truly enjoy reading your blog and I look forward to your new updates.

  • I’ve been exploring for a little for any high
    quality articles or weblog posts in this kind of space .
    Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this site.
    Reading this information So i’m glad to exhibit that I have an incredibly good uncanny feeling I found out
    exactly what I needed. I most no doubt will make sure to do not forget this site and give it a glance on a
    relentless basis.

  • Thanks for sharing your thoughts about . Regards

  • I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this website.
    I’m hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts by
    you later on as well. In truth, your creative
    writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own site now 😉

  • I really like your writing style, great information, thank you for putting up :D. “Your central self is totally untouched By grief, confusion, desperation.” by Vernon Howard.

  • Yes! Finally something about .

  • Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice at the same time as you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a blog web site?
    The account helped me a acceptable deal. I were tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided shiny transparent idea

  • Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I
    in finding It truly useful & it helped me out a lot.
    I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

  • Thank you for some other excellent article. The
    place else may anyone get that type of information in such
    an ideal approach of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I’m at the search for
    such info.

  • What i don’t understood is in fact how you are not really a lot
    more well-liked than you may be now. You are very intelligent.
    You recognize therefore significantly when it comes
    to this matter, made me in my view imagine it from so many various
    angles. Its like women and men are not involved except it
    is one thing to accomplish with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs
    excellent. All the time deal with it up!

  • If you are going for best contents like I do, simply visit this web site daily
    for the reason that it offers feature contents,

  • I like this blog very much so much fantastic info .

  • Pretty component to content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to claim that I get actually loved account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing in your feeds and even I achievement you access persistently rapidly.

  • Valuable info. Fortunate me I discovered your site accidentally, and I’m surprised why this coincidence didn’t took place earlier! I bookmarked it.

  • Attractive element of content. I simply stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I’ll be subscribing for your feeds or even I fulfillment you access persistently fast.

  • Great write-up, I?¦m normal visitor of one?¦s web site, maintain up the excellent operate, and It’s going to be a regular visitor for a long time.

  • I have not checked in here for some time since I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are good quality so I guess I will add you back to my everyday bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  • Absolutely pent subject material, thanks for information. “The last time I saw him he was walking down Lover’s Lane holding his own hand.” by Fred Allen.

  • Hi there, I do believe your site could be having web browser compatibility problems.
    Whenever I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however,
    if opening in Internet Explorer, it’s got some overlapping
    issues. I merely wanted to provide you with a quick heads up!
    Aside from that, great website!

  • I am sure this post has touched all the internet viewers, its really really pleasant
    article on building up new weblog.

  • What’s up, I log on to your blogs on a regular basis. Your writing style is witty, keep up the good work!

  • I got this web page from my pal who shared with me about this web page and at the moment this time I am visiting this web site
    and reading very informative articles or reviews at this

  • I got this web page from my friend who shared with me concerning
    this site and at the moment this time I am visiting this site and reading very informative articles or reviews
    at this place.

  • You actually make it appear so easy with your presentation however
    I to find this topic to be really something which I feel I might never understand.
    It sort of feels too complicated and extremely vast for me.
    I am looking ahead to your next publish, I’ll attempt to get the dangle of it!

  • When I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked
    the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get four emails with the exact same comment.
    Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service?


  • It?¦s in point of fact a nice and useful piece of info. I am glad that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  • Greetings from California! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to browse your
    blog on my iphone during lunch break. I love the knowledge you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m shocked at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, fantastic blog!

  • Hi there, I found your website by way of Google
    whilst searching for a similar topic, your site got here up, it appears good.

    I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
    Hello there, just changed into alert to your weblog through Google, and located that it is really informative.
    I am going to be careful for brussels. I will appreciate when you continue this
    in future. Lots of other people will probably be benefited from your writing.

  • As the admin of this website is working, no uncertainty very quickly it will be renowned, due to
    its feature contents.

  • Hi, I desire to subscribe for this website to obtain most recent updates, so where
    can i do it please help out.

  • Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all folks you actually know what you’re talking about!
    Bookmarked. Please also talk over with my site =).
    We could have a hyperlink trade agreement between us

  • Hi there, yes this article is really pleasant and I have learned lot of things from it about blogging. thanks.

  • Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  • I all the time used to read piece of writing in news papers but now as I am a user of internet so from now I am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

  • Excellent article! We will be linking to this great article on our site. Keep up the good writing.

  • I’m not sure exactly why but this website is loading very slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later and see if the problem still exists.

  • Hi there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  • Your method of explaining all in this article is truly pleasant, all can without difficulty know it, Thanks a lot.

  • I love it when people come together and share opinions. Great website, keep it up!

  • What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively helpful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to give a contribution & aid other users like its helped me. Good job.

  • Pretty! This was an extremely wonderful post. Thanks for providing this information.

  • Hi, I check your blogs like every week. Your writing style is awesome, keep doing what you’re doing!

  • It is appropriate time to make a few plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this submit and if I may I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you could write next articles relating to this article. I want to read more things approximately it!

  • Hey! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing a few months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to protect against hackers?

  • Thank you, I have recently been searching for information approximately this topic for ages and yours is the best I have found out so far. However, what about the conclusion? Are you positive about the source?

  • Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve be mindful your stuff prior to and you’re simply too magnificent. I really like what you’ve received here, really like what you’re stating and the way through which you assert it. You are making it entertaining and you still take care of to stay it smart. I can not wait to read far more from you. This is actually a terrific site.

  • It’s really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m glad that you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • I am sure this article has touched all the internet viewers, its really really nice post on building up new website.

  • Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to come back once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

  • I am extremely inspired together with your writing skills and alsowell as with the format on your blog. Is this a paid subject or did you customize it yourself? Either way stay up the nice quality writing, it’s rare to peer a nice blog like this one nowadays..

  • I’ve been exploring for a little bit for any high-quality articles or blog posts in this kind of space . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this info So i’m glad to exhibit that I have a very just right uncanny feeling I came upon exactly what I needed. I so much no doubt will make certain to don?t disregard this site and give it a look on a continuing basis.

  • Undeniably consider that that you stated. Your favourite justification appeared to be at the net the simplest thing to remember of. I say to you, I definitely get irked even as folks consider worries that they plainly do not recognize about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the top as welland also defined out the whole thing with no need side effect , other people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thank you

  • Heya i’m for the primary time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I am hoping to offer something back and help others like you helped me.

  • Wow! This blog looks exactly like my old one! It’s on a completely different topic but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Excellent choice of colors!

  • Greetings from Carolina! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the knowledge you present here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m amazed at how quick your blog loaded on my cell phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, awesome site!

  • If some one desires to be updated with newest technologies then he must be pay a visit this web site and be up to date daily.

  • I’m gone to tell my little brother, that he should also visit this weblog on regular basis to take updated from most recent information.

  • Hi there! This is my 1st comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your blog posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects? Thanks a lot!

  • It’s really a cool and helpful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you simply shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  • Hi there it’s me, I am also visiting this web site daily, this web site is really good and the users are in fact sharing good thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Start typing and press Enter to search

Shopping Cart

No products in the basket.